Bowling is a Hard Skill

When I worried about not being competent enough for my internship this summer, I really did not expect the deficiency to be in bowling. I was thinking my employability hang-up would be more along the lines of accidentally coding the company website into ruin, setting fire to the office printer, or not knowing whether you can mail vertically-addressed envelopes—all scenarios that have woken me, sweating, in the middle of the night.


But no. Of all things, bowling was going to be my kiss of death.

I’d bowled before, of course, having reaped the benefits of many a middle school birthday party package deal. However, I’d been under the impression that I’d be able to get through the rest of my life without ever having to bowl properly and had tried to project an air of “I could bowl proficiently if you asked me to but I really hope you don’t.” This was not to be.

Having newly entered the corporate workforce, I’ve recently realized that bowling is an essential hard skill. Just in the past few months, every company social (not just where I work) to which I’ve been invited has been at a bowling alley, predominantly at Bowl & Barrel.

Latest in the pattern was Thursday’s mandatory Company Fun Night to celebrate a successful second quarter. The whole week, I’d been dreading revealing my bowling ineptitude, by which I mean I was uncomfortable enough to experience horror in daily one-minute intervals and not enough to actually go out and practice.


In context, normally I wouldn’t be so concerned about being the worst bowler in the group (or the alley). This situation, however, worried me because a) most of the team were essentially strangers, b) said strangers claimed to score in the 200s while I’d never broken 100, and c) my bowling “technique.”

My Technique

  1. Resign self to throwing curved balls and just roll with (ha) the bad aim, going for the sides and having the ball rebound into the center.
  2. Use bumpers.
No idea why I thought gauging angles would be easier than just figuring out how to throw straight, but if I made any sense, then I’d be able to bowl like a normal person.


Anyway, I didn’t know what my coworkers would think of this method, but it couldn’t be anything good, so I resolved to re-learn how to bowl via the internet. The day of Fun Night, I read article after article on how to throw a straight ball, which boiled down to Step 1: Throw a straight ball.

Image result for step 1 draw an owl
The first thing that came to mind. (From

I read how-to articles up until the moment my supervisor, in search of better parking, dropped me off and I promptly walked in the opposite direction of the bowling alley and he had to yell across the street for me to turn back. Unable to decide which option was less stupid, telling him I’d opened Google Maps for a one-minute walk or that I was trying to escape on foot, I shut my mouth and headed inside.

Although I was relentlessly mocked for being the only one to use bumpers, I actually started off all right. My first attempt at a straight throw went reasonably well.

Co-worker: Come on, you don’t need bumpers.

Me: Give it a couple minutes.

On my next throw, I somehow managed to fling the ball in such a manner that it actually bounced upon impact. The ball grazed the right and knocked down six pins.

Co-worker: There’s the bumper.

Gradually, after a round of observing other players, my technique began to evolve. I was beginning to realize that the less energy I put into throwing the ball, the straighter it’d go. (I believe the principle’s akin to uninvolved parenting.) Screw momentum. I just stop, dropped, and rolled—AKA I walked up to the line, paused, and let go of the ball like I was carefully releasing a paper boat into a pond or reluctantly sending off my hypothetical teenage son to college. I set it free.

ball leaving

My score was decent relative to everyone else’s, fluctuating between third and fourth of six. Apparently, I’d taken my co-workers’ claims of bowling consistent 200s seriously because that’s how little I knew about bowling. And now, miraculously and probably also because everyone else was drunk, I was doing average. So, in a demonstration of true courage, I decided to take off the bumpers. I pressed the necessary buttons and turned to face the team.

Me: I’d like to thank everyone for attending my graduation. From bumpers to no bumpers.

I threw the ball, and it went wildly sideways… until, at the last second, it rebounded off the left bumper.

Apparently, I hadn’t saved my preferences. Sheepishly, I took them off, for real this time, and somehow rolled a strike.

In the end, I still didn’t break 100. I’d more or less gotten the same score without bumpers as I’d gotten with them. I’d let go of my pride (embarrassment from scores) to preserve my pride (embarrassment from bumpers.) I’d been left almost exactly as I was, so I guess the lessons here are, first, bowling is a hard skill in both senses of the term—hard as in measurable and hard as in difficult—and second, facing your fears essentially gains you nothing.

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17 thoughts on “Bowling is a Hard Skill

  1. With regard to your coworkers claims of bowling prowess, keep in mind for future reference, bowlers and fisherpeople are notorious liars. As are most businessmen. I know, having been all three at sometime or other. Trust me.
    On another note, bumperless bowling is a marketable skill and should be included on your resume. Trust me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, sorry for the late response! I took a week off, which I explain but not really. You were/are a bowler?? In the sense that my coworkers are “bowlers,” or do you mean professionally? Also, yes. I think I’ll knock off the education section to make room.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my no, I was never a professional bowler unless you count $14 dollars I netted on high score bets, which for us often meant whoever hot into triple digits. I was never a pro fisherperson altough I understand there are some. That sort of strikes me as somewhat akin to professional beach volleyball person. Any activity that can be accomplished as well with a substantial amount of beer as without should never be allowed to receive professional status. Yet I still believe they have a place on a resume.


  2. Oh my goodness, you have reminded me of a disastrous bowling experience I once had. I HATE these mandatory “fun nights!” They are not fun even if they are held during the night. I see a post coming on. You are my muse.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha akin to uninvolved parenting lol. That owl one had me laughing. It’s all about that technique. Setting items on fire in the office like Ryan?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! You and the rest of my readers are so nice, I get increasingly suspicious by the day. But, seriously, that’d be so cool. The comics are a pretty new addition–I got free access to some software through work and have been taking advantage of it since.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One has to wonder what kind of “corporate workplace” actually has bowling as their go-to off-hours team-building event. Next thing you know, they’ll be doing Goofy Golf and mini car racing. Has anyone considered a charity walk or Habitat for Humanity or even a good old fashioned softball or volleyball game?


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